The recent Golden Globe Awards seem to have surreptitiously hinted at the direction in which television is heading. Netflix and Amazon were some of the bigger winners on the night, leaving HBO and others in the dust. Whether it was Kevin Spacey with House Of Cards or Jeffrey Tambor with Transparent, the two biggest ‘streaming’ services have been flexing their muscles while shows like True Detectve and Veep didn’t get a look in. By placing the onus on web-based shows, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has unwittingly proposed the idea that these traditional television broadcasters are becoming more and more obsolete.
Could this be the eve of a new chapter in television?
The internet sparked numerous new challenges for the television industry and meant that TV shows were readily available online via illegal download. New digital formats also created direct competition against traditional TV production. Original web-only television began in the 1990s and gained mainstream popularity during the rise of social media. Shows like Felicia Day’s The Guild racked up millions of views on YouTube, generated substantial revenue, and demonstrated that anyone could make a hit show even on a shoestring budget.
Following the success of these online shows, bigger companies jumped on the band wagon and the Golden Globes have rewarded these new formats, favouring them over major television broadcasters. The latest season of the recently revived Arrested Development was shown exclusively on Netflix despite starting out on a conventional channel.
With Microsoft and Yahoo poised to follow suit, soon there will simply be too much web-based TV to choose from, let alone conventional TV. The lazy nature of television viewing will generally favour on demand formats like Netflix, and when this is combined with a limitless supply of hit shows, HBO and its contemporaries will probably have to ask themselves some serious questions. Although broadcasters already have catch up software available online, there may come a time when viewers will cut out the middle man and just rely on a streaming service rather than panicking every time they miss their favourite TV show. Especially with the average box set burning a large whole in the consumer’s pocket.
In the same way the music industry adapted to the destructive force of illegal downloading with new innovations like Spotify, so too must this industry. Whether you call it progress or the end of an era, the internet has turned traditional business models on their heads.
- Alex Olesen